User Menu

MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Beauty for the Eye and Ear

  • Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Why do you think the man is looking directly at the viewer?

    •How do you think this man wanted to be remembered, as seen in the portrait? Use details from the painting to support your answers.

    •How can you tell if he is wealthy or not?

    •What do you think the ability to play an instrument suggests?

    Details

    Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute

    1576

    Bartolomeo Passarotti, Italian (Bolognese), 1529–1592

    Dimensions

    77 x 60 cm (30 5/16 x 23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.55

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Lute Player

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Do you think this man is performing or practicing in the painting? How can you tell?

    •Do you think this would have been a comfortable position to play a lute in? Why or why not?

    •Where do you think the man is playing?

    Details

    Lute Player

    about 1640

    Jean de Reyn, French, about 1610–1678

    Dimensions

    157.5 x 114.0 cm (62 x 44 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    34.541

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Lute Music

    Slide Notes

    The man is playing an instrument called the lute. It is a string instrument, in the same family as a guitar. It has a pleasant sound which accompanies singing very well.

    This particular lute is from later on in the seventeenth century.

    Listen closely to the music. This piece of music was composed at about the same time the lute was made. It is called "Gigue qui imite Coucou" by Johann Anton Logi, composed in the 1690s (performed by Olav Chris Henriksen).

    Details

    Lute Player

    about 1640

    Jean de Reyn, French, about 1610–1678

    Dimensions

    157.5 x 114.0 cm (62 x 44 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    34.541

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Lute

    1699

    Andreas Berr, Austrian, 1656–1722

    Dimensions

    Length 81 cm, width 28.3 cm, depth 13.5 cm (Length 31 7/8 in., width 11 1/8 in., depth 5 5/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ivory, spruce, ebony

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1986.7

    Collections
    Musical Instruments
    On View
    More Info

    Description


    Back comprised of eleven ribs of ivory, each separated by strips of ebony, with capping strip. Strips of ebony along upper edges. Belly of fine-grain spruce with carved rose in geometric pattern. Neck and fingerboard of ebony. Pegbox of ebonized wood, veneered on front and back with ebony; back decorated with incised openwork panel of ivory in acanthus leaf pattern. Arm (later) for diapason strings and bridge of ebonized wood. Tuning pegs of ebony with buttons of ivory. Nine tied-on frets of gut and three (later) frets of wood. Nuts of ivory (main nut later). Twenty-four strings: two single chanterelles and nine pairs on fingerboard, and two pairs of diapasons. Internal construction: Seven lateral braces on belly (two above soundhole and one across soundhole) and one short, angled brace near lower end.

    Multimedia

  • Lute Player Comparison

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Which man do you think is friendlier? Support your answer with details from the painting.

    •Why do you think both men are looking directly at the viewer?

    •Do you think they lived in the same country? Why or why not?

    •Do you think these men are performing or practicing music?

    Details

    Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute

    1576

    Bartolomeo Passarotti, Italian (Bolognese), 1529–1592

    Dimensions

    77 x 60 cm (30 5/16 x 23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.55

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Lute Player

    about 1640

    Jean de Reyn, French, about 1610–1678

    Dimensions

    157.5 x 114.0 cm (62 x 44 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    34.541

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • Woman Playing a Lute

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •What are some visual clues that tell you that the woman is not performing in front of people in this painting?

    •Why do you think she is playing the lute by herself?

    •Where do you think she is in the context of the painting?

    •Do you think she is a professional or does she play at her own leisure? Why or why not?

    Details

    Woman Playing a Lute

    about 1700–05

    Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Italian (Bolognese), 1665–1747

    Dimensions

    121.3 x 153 cm (47 3/4 x 60 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    69.958

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Shapiro Gallery (18th c. European) - 246 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Twelfth Night Instrument

    Slide Notes

    The violin is being played in this scene!

    Here is an image of a violin from around the same time.

    You can listen to a piece of music from that era being played on the violin. The music is "Gavotte" from Sonata no. 3 in C major (BWV 1005) by Johann Sebastien Bach, composed in 1720 (performed by Daniel Stepner).

    •What is the mood of the music being played? How can you tell?

    •Do you think this is the music being played in the painting? Why or why not?

    Details

    Twelfth-Night Feast

    1662

    Jan Havicksz. Steen, Dutch, 1626–1679

    Dimensions

    Overall: 131.1 x 164.5cm (51 5/8 x 64 3/4in.) Framed: 155.6 x 188.6 cm (61 1/4 x 74 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    54.102

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Dutch & Flemish Art (1600-1700) - 242 More Info

    Violin

    1641, with later alterations

    Nicolo Amati, Italian, 1596–1684

    Dimensions

    Length 57.8 cm, width 20.1 cm (Length 22 3/4 in., width 7 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Maple, spruce, ebony

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1991.73

    Collections
    Musical Instruments
    On View
    103D More Info

    Description


    Two-piece back and ribs of maple. Two-piece belly of fine-grain spruce (attributed to Carlo Tononi in Bologna, about 1700). Regular purfling. Neck and pegbox of maple. Fingerboard, nut, saddle, and end button of ebony. Tuning pegs and tailpiece of boxwood. Medium-brown varnish. Internal construction: Normal modern.

    Multimedia

  • Man/Woman Lute Comparison

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions;

    •What are the similarities and differences between these two paintings?

    •Why do you think the man is looking directly at the viewer, but the woman is not? What is the significance of this difference?

    Lesson #4 Assignment:

    Pick one of the paintings in this section, and imagine you are the artist. You are interviewing the person/people in the painting. Based on evidence from the paintings, write down a dialogue that includes the questions you would ask regarding how they want to be portrayed in the painting, why they want to include musical instruments in the painting, their connection with music, and how you think they would answer.

    Details

    Woman Playing a Lute

    about 1700–05

    Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Italian (Bolognese), 1665–1747

    Dimensions

    121.3 x 153 cm (47 3/4 x 60 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    69.958

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Shapiro Gallery (18th c. European) - 246 More Info

    Portrait of a Man Playing a Lute

    1576

    Bartolomeo Passarotti, Italian (Bolognese), 1529–1592

    Dimensions

    77 x 60 cm (30 5/16 x 23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.55

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • Instruments as Symbols:

    Musical instruments have been used as symbols to represent a variety of ideas over time.

  • Siva as Nataraja

    Slide Notes

    Siva is one god in the Hindu pantheon. When Siva is in the form of Nataraja, he embodies the powers of creation and destruction simultaneously. This sculpture contains many symbols of Siva's role as a god. In one of his hands, he holds a drum; this is the drum he uses to keep the beat for his dance of creation.

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Why do you think Siva has so many arms?

    •What is the significance of music in this sculpture?

    •Do you think Siva is dancing? Why or why not?

    •Why do you think a drum is used in particular?

    **Can you find the drum Siva is playing?** (HINT: Use the Zoom feature to take a closer look at the image.)

    Details

    Siva as Nataraja

    about 1800

    Dimensions

    103 x 102 x 33 cm (40 9/16 x 40 3/16 x 13 in.)

    Medium

    Copper

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    21.1828

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • The Procuress

    Slide Notes

    Baburen was one of several painters from Utrecht, Holland, who went to study and work in Rome. Profoundly influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers, they specialized in close-up views of large, half-length figures, solidly modelled with emphatic contrasts of light and shadow. Here, an amorous suitor barters wit an elderly, turbanned, woman for the favors of a cheerful young woman. The lute, symbol of love, occupies the center of the composition; the gestures of the hands that surround it tell the painting's story.

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Tell a story based on what you see happening in the picture.

    •Why do you think the woman is holding a lute?

    •Imagine the conversation that these three people are having. What are they saying to each other?

    Details

    The Procuress

    1622

    Dirck van Baburen, Dutch, 1590 to 1595–1624

    Dimensions

    101.6 x 107.6 cm (40 x 42 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    50.2721

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Still Life in an Architectural...

    Slide Notes

    One goal of still-life painting was to stop time and permit juxtapositions that would be unusual, if not impossible, in the natural world. This imaginary banquet presents an abundance of fruit, fowl, and game, along with a number of exoitc animals and hunting dogs. The range of objects allowed the artists to show off their skills at paintnig varied colors and textures. The work is a collaboration between Jan Fyt, a still-life specialist, and Erasmus Quellinus, an assistant of Peter Paul Reubens who was skilled at painting architecture.

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Do you think this painting has more meaning than just an assortment of objects placed together?

    •What is the overall mood set by the painting? Explain your answer.

    •What is the significance of the instrument in the painting?

    •What other objects do you see? What kind of story could you tell based on this painting?

    To find the instrument, use the Zoom feature and take a closer look at the image.

    Details

    Still Life in an Architectural Setting

    about 1645

    Jan Fyt, Flemish, 1611–1661

    Dimensions

    112.4 x 82.9 cm (44 1/4 x 32 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    50.2728

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Music offers fleeting sensory pleasures, allowing musical instruments to become symbols for the notion of "vanitas." How do such paintings serve as moral guides?

  • Vanitas Still Life

    Slide Notes

    To learn more about "vanitas" paintings, download the file attached to this online gallery.

    "Looking" Questions:

    •What kinds of objects do you see included in this still life based on the idea of vanity?

    •In what ways do these objects represent vanity appropriately? Why do you think the artist chose them?

    •What do you think the skull represents?

    •Look closely. The artist has painted the image as if the canvas is falling off its base. Why do you think the artist chose to depict this?

    Details

    Vanitas Still Life

    Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Flemish, active in 1659–1675

    Dimensions

    84.4 x 78.1 cm (33 1/4 x 30 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.357

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Vanitas Instrument

    Slide Notes

    The instrument featured in the painting is a violin.

    •Why do you think a violin is included in a still life that deals with the theme of vanity?

    •What can you say about the mood that this particular piece of music sets for the painting on the left?

    The music clip here is an excerpt from "Passacaglia" by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, composed about 1676 (performed by Daniel Stepner).

    Details

    Vanitas Still Life

    Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Flemish, active in 1659–1675

    Dimensions

    84.4 x 78.1 cm (33 1/4 x 30 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.357

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Violin

    1761

    Giovanni Battista Gabbrielli, Italian, active 1740–1770

    Dimensions

    Length 58.4 cm, width 19.9 cm (Length 23 in., width 7 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Maple, spruce, ebony

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1981.749

    Collections
    Musical Instruments More Info

    Description


    Two-piece back and ribs of maple. Two-piece belly of fine-grain spruce. Regular purfling. Neck and pegbox of maple. Fingerboard, tailpiece, tuning pegs, nut, saddle, and end button of ebony. Yellow-brown varnish. Internal construction: Normal modern.

    Multimedia

  • Vanitas

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •Why do you think the boy is blowing bubbles? Why did the artist choose to paint the man sleeping?

    •In what ways does this painting represent vanity?

    Details

    Vanitas

    1981

    Claudio Bravo, Chilean, 1936–2011

    Dimensions

    Framed: 204.5 x 246.4 x 5.1 cm (80 1/2 x 97 x 2 in.) Image: 200 x 240.3 cm (78 3/4 x 94 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2003.29

    Collections
    Contemporary Art More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Vanitas Comparison

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •How has each artist chosen to represent the same idea?

    •Why do you think a skull indicates vanity?

    •Why do you think a contemporary artist revisits the notion of vanity using symbols that many people might not recognize today?

    Lesson #5 Assignment:

    Create a collage of objects (not people) that you feel represent the idea of "vanitas" in contemporary society. Keep in mind how the collage can communicate a moral. Write a brief description of your collage.

    Details

    Vanitas Still Life

    Cornelis Norbertus Gijsbrechts, Flemish, active in 1659–1675

    Dimensions

    84.4 x 78.1 cm (33 1/4 x 30 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.357

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Vanitas

    1981

    Claudio Bravo, Chilean, 1936–2011

    Dimensions

    Framed: 204.5 x 246.4 x 5.1 cm (80 1/2 x 97 x 2 in.) Image: 200 x 240.3 cm (78 3/4 x 94 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2003.29

    Collections
    Contemporary Art More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • Different Audiences

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •What are the differences in the reasons for playing music in these two scenes?

    •What are the differences in the audience for the music being played?

    •Name some other similarities and differences between the two paintings.

    Details

    Prince on a terrace with female dancers and musicians

    Early 18th century

    Dimensions

    Overall: 38.4 x 27.5 cm (15 1/8 x 10 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    14.859

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Twelfth-Night Feast

    1662

    Jan Havicksz. Steen, Dutch, 1626–1679

    Dimensions

    Overall: 131.1 x 164.5cm (51 5/8 x 64 3/4in.) Framed: 155.6 x 188.6 cm (61 1/4 x 74 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    54.102

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Dutch & Flemish Art (1600-1700) - 242 More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • La Perspective (View through the...

    Slide Notes

    "Looking" Questions:

    •How is music significant in this scene?

    •Why do you think the young man is playing music in the middle of a park?

    **Which instrument do you think the young man is playing?** (HINT: Use the Zoom feature to take a closer look at the image.)

    Details

    La Perspective (View through the Trees in the Park of Pierre Crozat)

    about 1715

    Antoine Watteau, French, 1684–1721

    Dimensions

    46.7 x 55.3 cm (18 3/8 x 21 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    23.573

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Remis Gallery (European Art 1600-1800) - 244 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • La Perspective Instrument

    Slide Notes

    The young man is playing a guitar.

    Here you can see a close up image of a guitar that greatly resembles the one in the painting. This particular guitar is from around the same time period.

    You can also listen to music that was composed in that era. The music is called "Caprice de chacone" by Francesco Corbetta, composed in 1671 (performed by Olav Chris Henriksen; from the recording "La Guitarre Royalle," Museum Music label).

    Details

    La Perspective (View through the Trees in the Park of Pierre Crozat)

    about 1715

    Antoine Watteau, French, 1684–1721

    Dimensions

    46.7 x 55.3 cm (18 3/8 x 21 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    23.573

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Remis Gallery (European Art 1600-1800) - 244 More Info

    Guitar

    1680

    Nicolas Alexandre Voboam II, French, after 1633–about 1693

    Dimensions

    Length 91.9 cm, width 25 cm, depth 9.3 cm (Length 36 3/16 in., width 9 13/16 in., depth 3 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Ebony, red cedar, spruce, ivory, parchment, sheep gut

    Classification

    Musical instruments, Chordophones

    Accession Number

    1993.576

    Collections
    Musical Instruments
    On View
    103D More Info

    Description


    Back of "red cedar" (Juniperus) inlaid with four strips of ivory sandwiched by ebony. Ribs of ebony inlaid with two strips of ivory. Belly of fine-grain spruce with tiered rose of gilded parchment. Rope-pattern binding of ivory and ebony along edges of belly, soundhole, headstock, and fingerboard. Neck, headstock, and fingerboard veneered with ebony; neck inlaid with six strips of ivory. Tuning pegs of rosewood. Ten tied-on frets of gut and two frets of wood. Nut of ivory. Bridge (later?) of ebony terminating in "moustaches." Ten strings in five pairs. Internal construction: two lateral braces on back and six on belly (two above soundhole and two abutting soundhole). Modern hardshell case.

    Multimedia

Pages